VAN WERT – It’s all about building a strong pack of runners.
Lately, longtime Lincolnview cross country head coach Matt Langdon has seen signs of his pack beginning to come together.
At Saturday’s Van Wert Health Cross Country Invitational, Langdon’s boys team packed it in, en route to winning the team title.
Lincolnview won the boys race with 76 points, while Van Wert finished second with 99 points. Ottawa-Glandorf (106), Shawnee (114) and Wapakoneta (130) rounded out the top five squads in the 15-team field.
Kreston Tow led Lincolnview with a seventh-place finish in 16 minutes, 36.9 seconds on the 5,000-meter course that traversed around the Van Wert Reservoirs. The rest of the top five runners for the Lancers on Saturday included Conner Baldauf (10th, 16:49.8), Evan Johns (14th, 17:00.9), Maddox Norton (20th, 17:29.5) and Kaleb Denman (26th, 17:38.5).
“We had an awesome day,” Langdon said. “The course ran fast. These were the nicest conditions that we’ve had all season. (Being) the mid-point of the season, with all that conditioning we’ve been doing in the heat – when you get a day like this on a good course and it’s not super windy, you get good results.
“Our times were fast. The pack was good. The kids competed. We had our 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 guys right in the mix. It was exciting to see. Where our group moved up – in relation to some of those top runners – we were closer to them than we have ever been. It was a good day. All the training kind of hit at the right time, today.”
Individually, it was a three-man race.
Shawnee junior Noah Williams pulled away late in the race to clock a winning time of 15:48, which was a personal best. Bluffton’s Erik Nygaard (second, 15:54.5) and Spencerville’s Lanny Oakman (third, 16:06.7) were right with Williams until the final 400 meters or so.
Ottawa-Glandorf’s Ty Rosengarten (fourth, 16:19.3) and Wapakoneta’s Axton Fosnaugh (fifth, 16:20.5) were not far behind. There were 152 finishers in Saturday’s boys race.
Williams, who came into Saturday’s invite with a personal best of 16:01, said he worked the hills and wind to his advantage Saturday.
“When we got down from the top of the reservoir the last time, there’s a little hill,” Williams said. “I was like, ‘Well, I can use this for a little bit of speed, and gain momentum on him (Nygaard).’ I pretty much took it from there. It was pretty windy up there. I believe this meet was just right for me to get first place.”
Nygaard knew, coming in, that it was probably going to come down to a sprint to the finish.
“I knew it was going to be either me pulling ahead, or him (Williams) pulling ahead at the end,” Nygaard said. “So, I was just waiting to see how I felt; and he got me today.”
Normally, Nygaard has his teammate Landon Armstrong right along with him during the races. However, Armstrong was resting a sore foot Saturday, and did not race.
“It was very different. … I love running with Landon,” Nygaard said. “When you’re racing with a teammate, it’s more than just racing against someone else, because you’ve been training with them all the time.”
On the girls side, Ottawa-Glandorf demonstrated how strong its pack of runners are, as the Titans came away with the team title Saturday.
Despite not having one of its top three runners there Saturday, O-G slipped past Western Buckeye League foe Shawnee, 67-76. Lincolnview (99), Fort Wayne Canterbury (108) and Parkway (130) rounded out the top five squads. There were 12 full teams in the girls race.
Alexa Fortman led O-G with a second-place finish in 19:04.3. Anna’s Paige Steinke pulled away from the pack early, en route to a stellar winning time of 17:41.4.
Shawnee’s Molly Stump, who ran most of the race alongside Fortman, finished a close third (19:15.5). Shawnee’s Alaina Williams finished fourth (19:33.4). Lincolnview’s Brynleigh Moody placed fifth (19:41.3). There were 114 finishers in Saturday’s girls race.
Steinke led from start to finish in Saturday’s race.
“My coach usually tells me how many meters they are behind me,” Steinke said in reference to the competition. “I never look back. I pretend like there’s somebody right behind me. It helps me keep going.”
Fortman said she came in really focused Saturday. She wanted to finish strong.
“With about 800 (meters) left, I thought, ‘Ok, I got to go. … I got to go’,” Fortman said. “I just kept pushing through. I just prayed the whole time to God, for me to rely on my focus for this meet. Our team really came together.”
Missing Saturday’s invite for O-G was Madelyn Hovest, who usually is not far behind Fortman in most races. Hovest missed Saturday’s meet to compete in a soccer match.
The rest of O-G’s team stepped up to help fill the void.
Olivia Fenbert (seventh, 20:09.5), Corinne Closson (14th, 20:30.9), Rose Turnwald (22nd, 21:06.3) and Anna Buddelmeyer (25th, 21:35.1) rounded out the top five runners for the Titans.
“We do have depth,” O-G head coach Holly Flueckiger said. “But with Madelyn in there, it’s a game-changer. I think that everyone gets more focused. I think having her there, makes everybody push harder and work harder, because they want to win as a team.
“But it all comes down to how they practice. Maybe they won’t like some of the workouts we do, but they put in the work. This week was so positive. I was so proud of them. They really understand why we’re running the way that we’re running, during the week.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0468.